Refugees who are being housed in an old ESB building in East Wall have said they want to join the ongoing protests and said their rooms are like a “cage for animals”.
Hundreds of male asylum seekers have been bussed into the former office block since the middle of November - but earlier this week, families including women and children began arriving. There have been regular demonstrations organised by local residents that have brought Dublin to a standstill since last month.
Last night, protesters blocked Bus Aras, the Samuel Beckett Bridge, and the East Link toll bridge causing traffic chaos. But brave asylum seekers broke their silence yesterday and said that they not only understand why those living in the area are upset but that they support the protests and would be willing to take to the streets themselves.
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The Irish Mirror spoke to a number of refugees who are being housed in the old ESB building after they were brought there from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry this week. Dublin Live previously reported on locals in East Wall slamming the "embarrassing" protests.
The Irish Mirror also obtained pictures and videos which show for the very time the living conditions that the refugees who are being housed there are subjected to.
Each floor contains a number of partitioned cubicles with each typically containing a wooden bunk bed with white duvet covers - but some rooms are larger with an extra bed to accommodate families. The wall partitions do not reach the ceiling - offering very little privacy and meaning people can look into other cubicles.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one 24-year-old North African woman, who has been in Ireland for seven months, told this newspaper that there were no segregated showers areas and that men could see them while they got washed. She told how there is a “clash of cultures” among the refugees with many coming from different countries and different religions which was creating problems within the building.
The brave woman, who was a nurse in her home country, said that men stare at females and said many feel extremely uncomfortable. Asked about what she thought of the protests, she said: “We agree with the protests, we feel it’s not racist at all, it’s okay to protest.
"Myself, I can support you, I will protest with you. We don’t want you to feel uncomfortable with us because we feel you.
“All the Irish people we respect them and we agree with why they are protesting and we’re sorry that you feel uncomfortable because us as well are not comfortable and we didn’t expect this situation.
“All we want to do is work and have a normal life, we feel like we can give something to this country.”
She said she fled her home country because she felt “unsafe” and said that women there have “no rights and would be killed for speaking out”. Asked about what it is like living in the old ESB Building, the woman who had been in the Crowne Plaza Hotel until earlier this week, said: “I don’t feel safe, I feel uncomfortable, the food is awful, the place where we can take showers is mixed, there is males and they can see us, they can spy at us.
"There are no women-only times. There is no privacy, we’re all alone and we are single women, we feel unsafe.
“They stare at us in a bad way you know. There are mixed bathrooms and mixed showers. We don’t want a big thing, we just want privacy.”
They also revealed the cubicles where people are being housed are very flimsy and said when they sit up on their bunk beds they can see directly into other people’s rooms. She added: “At night, I’m scared, there are a lot of men.”
The woman also said the lock on their door wasn’t working and explained that it wouldn’t take much to break down their door even if it was. She said that single women and families were being put on the same floor as single men.
Fighting back tears, the woman added: “The message is (to the Government), I appreciate their help, of course, I’m going to appreciate it but the situation I can’t handle it, I can’t adapt because I don’t feel like a human anymore.
“I just came here for a good opportunity but in this situation, I can’t give anything. I feel depressed, I feel unsafe.”
While another 43-year-old man from the Democratic Republic of Congo said he has been through “hell” to get to Ireland. The refugee said he was separated from his wife and child once conflict broke out in his country last year and said he hasn’t been able to find them since.
He initially fled the African nation on foot and used various other methods of transport before eventually arriving in Morocco. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, also detailed how he had to swim part of the way between Morocco and Spain after a boat that was being used to ferry him and other refugees between the two continents broke down.
He was then rescued by the Spanish Coast Guard before making his way up to France. The man then spent some time in what has become known as the Calais Jungle.
He then hid in a lorry that was travelling to England before making his way to Belfast and eventually down to Dublin in October. He told The Irish Mirror: “I’m not a normal man anymore, I’m a broken one.
"Just look at the eyes of a refugee and you will see the pain behind them. When I was on the boat, I thought I was going to die but now I feel like I have a second chance that is why you will never see me in trouble with police or with drugs.”
Another man who is from the Middle East who is staying in the old ESB building with his family said the cubicle he has to stay in was like a “cage for an animal”. He said: “I really didn’t expect it to be this bad, it’s like a cage for an animal, a dog in your house is better treated than us.
“We have zero privacy, zero security, I can see people sleeping. I can listen to people’s conversations, it’s f***ing “crazy”.
“I really want to say for the protests against the building they are right and I’m ready to join them because it’s not fair, not for us and not for them because I don’t want someone in this world to be in this situation where we are now.”
Another said: “We can’t lock our doors, we can close it but it can’t be locked.”
Speaking yesterday Nigel Murphy, who is involved in organising the protests, told The Irish Mirror: “From the beginning, I went inside, I looked at the conditions and I thought from the off that it wasn’t safe and healthy for human habitation.”
He said he believes the Government has put women and children into the asylum centre for the first time this week to discredit the protests.
Nigel explained: “I don’t think the Government has a plan, I don’t think they have a strategy, they’ve taken these women and children from a safe hotel where they had their own bedrooms, where they were safe, they’ve put them into this building, I think as a prop to attack our protest to make us look bad as if we’re protesting outside a building full of women and children.
“I don’t actually think they took these families, women, and children’s safety concerns into consideration and this has been proven by their testimonies.”
The Irish Mirror contacted the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth but they did not respond to queries before publication. Previously, they said the former building was converted into an accommodation centre in response to mounting pressure being put on the country’s commitment to house asylum seekers.
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